This is the fourth in the lengthy series of Wing Commander novels and was published in 1995 by Baen. It’s written by Forstchen once again but also co-authored by Andrew Keith. I was glad on the whole to see the novels return to the games, as that is after all primarily what I’m interested in. The story on Wing Commander 3 was well told but it could certainly stand a little padding which is what I was looking for in this novel.
This is the first novel to feature Blair. A character called Blair got a brief mention in Freedom Flight but this is the first definite mention of the person you play in the games. To answer a question I asked at the end of the last novel, the book does pick up immediately from where the last one left off. The Concordia was destroyed in the defence of Earth leading to Blair’s transfer to the Victory. Blair was apparently out of action for 6 months at the time of the defense which is why he survived. The game’s story flows fairly naturally from the end of the previous novel actually. Whether this is by accident or design I’m not sure, but the huge losses at the end of the last book would explain the downbeat and world-weary attitudes shown in WC3.
The novel follows the book extremely closely, right down to using word for word dialog a lot of the time so I won’t go into too much detail on the plot except to point out a few differences. Flash isn’t a test pilot in this but a home defence pilot transferred to the Victory. He doesn’t play much of a role here and is killed off fairly quickly.
Regarding Hobbes and his mutiny, right from the start of the book we know that there are orders for the Kilrathi not to attack him so it’s not much of a surprise. We do at least get the explanation in the book about the Kilrathi implanting him with a second personality which was removed once he heard the code phrase “Heart Of The Tiger”. In the book, Blair gets to go and kill him straight after he murders Cobra without any consequences. There was the famously cut scene in WC3 of Hobbes explanation and the game could have done with this sort of explanation.
There is no rescuing of Severin to build the Temblor bomb here and it is already complete when the Behemoth is destroyed. Vagabond, Flint and Maniac come along for the final mission and all die before the end (with the possible exception of Maniac who may have ejected). Maniac actually sacrifices himself weakening Thrakaths fighter enough for Blair to finish him off and drop the bomb. This fight takes place on the planet rather than in space. Vagabond being bumped off could be awkward in the next book, but it wouldn’t be too hard to simply replace his character with someone else.
Finally during the surrender, the Kilrathi mention that another greater race will take the opportunity to attack after their surrender making their only chance now to ally with Earth. This race was refered to in the last book also, as pulling out of a conflict with the Kilrathi when yet another lot of aliens attacked them. It’s interesting anyway and could maybe feed into the Prophecy plot. There are a few books left yet so I expect I will find out more.
This was possibly the strongest of the books so far, thanks to being able to base itself around the WC3 plot. The characters were stronger in this than the previous novel though and it was a definite improvement. It was the longest in the series but it still compressed the games story down which gives an idea just how much was packed into WC3. I wouldn’t say the writing felt rushed (apart from the ending), but it didn’t hang around either.
It certainly wasn’t an upbeat read, but then the game was positively gloomy also. This takes it further and basically everything goes wrong, near enough everyone dies and the Temblor bomb is a last desperate suicide run. I might not agree with the methods but you can see where Tolwyn was coming from in the next game/book when he said that the victory against the Kilrathi was a fluke.
My biggest problem with this book would be my familiarity with the game as I obviously knew where the story was going. I expected the book to fill in details and it did this to some extent but it missed as much out as it added. This may be the better novel but I enjoyed the first two in the series more thanks to their original storylines. This book possibly added a little to the game but if you gave me a choice between the two, the game is going to win every time.